01 February 2010

Last Frontiers

Instead of riding out on the Cervelo road bike on Sunday, I decided that it would be time to test the Bad Boy with all terrain tires out on some serious gravel trails.

I notified Tom and Ludwig about my riding plans at 11.30 PM the day before and naturally they didn't made it to the meeting point. Perhaps this wasn't unintentionally as I perhaps preferred to be alone on my first Bad Boy Cyclo Cross Test ride.

After having prepared the bike on the evening of the day before I left home at 7 AM only to realize that having only 700x23C spare tubes for 700x30C tires plus no patching kit with me would be probably not a good idea. Never mind. Did Napoleon leave Moscow despite the Russian winter? Did Hannibal cross the alps on elephants? Did they have spare French or spare elephants with them? No, of course not and how splendid they did nevertheless afterwards!

It took me only 48 minutes to reach the meeting point at Ta
magawa which was fairly fast, given the fact that I was basically riding something more similar to a MTB than a road racer. Luckily James, Dominic, Michael and Yair kept waiting despite me being late for more than 20 seconds over the allowed PE approved waiting deadline. I was seriously reprimanded by James before we left along the Tamagawa. James had the Shimano Di-2 groupset on his Cervelo so he is the first PE rider who did upgrade. Together with the Garmin and the powerbub on the rear wheel he carried more electronic components per kilo of machine weight than a USAF stealth fighter jet.

It was really hard to keep up with Bad Boy in the flats, it almost felt like learning to cycle all over again. I had to put in at least 10 - 15% more power along the Tamagawa only to draft behind James and later in direction Takao I had to stop to get rid of my gloves. Actually I bought this padded Gore gloves for the winter season, but yesterday it was simply too hot so I continued riding without them.
This also gave me a good excuse to take it easy as I was already worn out from
riding at 160+ HRM all the time. And conversation wasn't so much fun either. I spoke with James and even when I wasn't in agreement with what he said I could barely stammer "ah, yeah, right", as I was trying simultaneously to get some amount of air into my lungs.

On the positive side I had to note, that the new Selle Italia saddle with 150 mm width with quite comfortable. I probably have to realize that my behind is not made for 130 mm wide saddle due to its sheer horizontal dimensions, swallow that pill and go for something wider also on my road bike. Stephen has already let the way in this respect with his huge over sized saddle that accounts for half of the weight of his Scott bike and make it look like a chaise longue.

Our group made a stop (I rather don't add "quick" here) at the 7-Eleven at Takao station before we started to conquer Otarumi. Everybody was going up pretty fast and consistent, however with Bad Boy it was even worse going up than in the flat. It took me 19:30 min for the standard Toge-baka distance and perhaps I could have done it a little bit faster but not much. Pretty disappointing, and I swore that the next time I will take out Bad Boy by train and start to ride only in very close vicinity of a gravel trail. On the top I said good-bye to the group that was going back via Tsukui lake while I was continuing along route 20 to the crossing with route 76 at Fujino.

Well the nice thing with Bad Boy is, that he is really fast, stable and steady on the downhills. I overtook everybody already at the first curve and I didn't saw anybody behind me when I reached the bottom of the hill. Braking is also very comfortable and easy to manage with two disc brakes and it was really a pleasure to ride down. It would be nice to do this again with David and check if I would be able to keep up with him as he is the actual holder of the Positivo Espresso Reverse Polka-Dot jersey, i.e. the king of the hills(down).

Road 76 was nice and empty. And before I know I arrived at Aone at the local supermarket where I purchased last supplies for the trail up to 大越 Tunnel. This is a PE-approved supermarket, however as this is the only supply point in Aone, please don't expect too much from it. It caters to people who actually cook their meals and not to those who expect to have indication of Amino-desoxy-nuclein-ribulose-natrium-viagra-glycolyd content on their jelly packs. I asked the lady how the weather would be up at the tunnel and as usual she answers "You cannot go up there" and as usual I said "Well, you keep telling me that, but some of my friends did before, don't worry I can do as well." We did this dialog already two or three times. By now it is more like a ritual, with all words in it having lost meaning.

Outside her dog was barking as usual. He dislikes me. Or my bike.

I got lost in Aone-city trying to find the entry to road 76 leading first to 神之川 camp site. Yes, Aone is a village with perhaps 500 inhabitants but nevertheless it is not so easy to find the right road. Ludwig and me tried to find it once but once we did we had to turn back as it took too much time. TCC has gone up there one, two times but this is already two, three years ago. Lauren told me he was there a long time ago and also Tom conquered the road with his new Cyclo-cross bike recently.

So it was time for me to give it a try, as this is also one of the few roads I know about and never did before. And a good initial test for the Bad Boy as I always had this road in mind when I made my plans to upgrade the bike.

The first part up to the right-wing radical camp site isn't particular difficult. There are some beautiful spots along the Kaminokawa river and even now there were a lot of people fishing there. Then one comes to a closed gate which is plastered with sign boards. One doesn't need to be able to read Japanese to understand that the basic message must be:

"Come on. This is a nice road leading into beautiful mountains, devoid of any dangers and just made for cyclists like you. Fun and adventure are awaiting behind these close gates. Welcome to cycling-pleasure wonderland. Don't hesitate to climb over the gate. By the way, these signboards are only made to look like "DO NOT ENTER" SIGNS so that normal human beings are refraining from coming here."

The gate is about elevation 550m and up to elevation 630m the road is in fairly good, asphalted shape. Of course there are many stones coming down from the slopes on the road. Then it starts to become a gravel road but again there are intermittent asphalted stretches. Then there is only gravel again. It is so hard and so to slow to climb this road that I had to make a break at elevation 720m to shoot some photos. The steepness of the road plus the surface made me creep up at 6 - 7 km/hr. Luckily I had my trekking shoes with the MTB-SL cleats on as otherwise I would have ruined my shoes and cleats for sure. Definitely not a road for road bikes.

Over 800m there was some ice and snow but generally it wasn't too cold. And after a while the road became flatter and finally the last stretch up to the tunnel was asphalted again before about 30 m in front of the tunnel was a last gate.

Interesting enough some of the slopes seemed to be shotcreted recently and were in good shape while the road next to it was not. But why is there a road (and a prefectural one) in this lonely place anyway? And why is there a tunnel on the top when basically one has to climb an additional 50 to 100 meter to make it over the mountain anyway?

I was too exhausted to answer these questions and continued through the tunnel which was dark but not as scary as I thought it would be (I brought a lamp from home especially for that purpose). No comparison to the horrors that ones await at Sasago tunnel.

I stripped down on the other side and took sunbath to add some complexion to my stealth body. And then I made the downhill to Tansawa lake which was fully on asphalted road and a breeze with the disc-braking Bad Boy.

We should ride more often to Tansawa, the lake looked beautiful and there are many roads around it.
After some more km I found myself on road 246 again. As I never thought I would make it that far, I didn't think before about how to return from there and naturally I didn't bring any maps with me. I thought about riding along 246 to the next Combini, take a look at a map and decide further. But then 246 was really ugly out there and there was no Combini at all. By the way, the landscape 246 runs through is nice indeed and also the Tomei highway over it is pretty impressing to look at. One can see parts of the old road and some older tunnels here and there but otherwise road 246 really made a cycling misery out of the place.

So when I saw a sign to Yamakita station I took that hint and stopped at the station there. There was a long shopping arcade with many shops in front of it so I thought I might find some noodle shop or supermarket to buy some food.
Unfortunately most of the shops went out of business in the Eighties and what is left catered to the needs of old country folk (seeds, aprons, adult diapers), so I was rather happy when I could leave the place 10 minutes later on a train. I was also happy that a train stopped at all, as it does so only once an hour.
And within no time I was in Odawara and back on the Shinkansen to Shin-Yokohama and finally home where I completely exhausted lost a game of monopoly to my 8 year old daughter and a game of Playstation2 Winning Eleven soccer with my Spanish team against Uruguay managed by my 13 year old son.

Hey, but they will never beat me up road 76.


I didn't join any of the Saturday rides as I was out in town Friday night with my wife. Few years ago I bought a rather larger piece of art (about 3 meters long) from a promising young artist called Yamaguchi Akira. Since then we get invitations from the gallery of him to all kind of exhibitions which are mostly in Kagoshima or Akita and with artists the world has never heard about and never will. But he has become more famous by now and we were asked by the 17th Bienale in Sydney to rent out our work.

As this time our cooperation was required we got some of the better invitation cards for the G Tokyo 2010 art exhibition at Roppongi Hills plus VIP invitations for the reception hold at Maison Hermes in the Ginza. For the exhibition I can report that there was not one work related to cycling and that most of art is decorative today. Also they ran out of champagne after I drank my third glass there.

I always had some relation to Hermes-Ginza for several reasons, one being that the elevators in the building were made by my previous company and the second one being that my wife always threatens me to buy some of this stuff.

It was very pleasant and as we arrived on time we had a good time at the Sushi Bar. As we ate a lot the bar was shut-down half an hour later when we were already at the buffet and the dessert bar. It is really pretty kind of Hermes to hand out food to the unemployed, I must say.

We were shown around the building and in the sixth floor busy craftsmen were repairing handbags and leather belts at 10 PM under inhumane conditions (i.e. in full view of drunken VIP guests).

I am happy to report that I found a brand that is even more expensive than Assos or Rapha. I could convince my wife not to buy anything but to eat and drink as much as possible. Which we did and explains the headache and general unlust the next morning. Sorry. We cannot be all VIPs.


Laurent said...

Mob, there is a road parallel to (truly ugly, busy and dangerous) Route 246 down at least to Yamakita and further, on the left side of the river.
It is visible on your picture on the other side of the river. Very little traffic and great smooth road. Try it next time.

Manfred von Holstein said...

Glad you made it up on route 76. It's been over a year since our failed attempt. I'm glad though we failed to find the entrance at the time - would have been just too hard on our bikes and your cleats. I will make it up one day too. Just need the right bike!

TOM said...

MOB...hilarious as always!

LAURENT...thanks for pointing out that road on the left side! Will try it for sure next time I'm in the area!

MvH...get that RED BULL!

James said...

MOB your 700x23c inners will have no problem inflating your 30c tires. Most tires will actually have the width range on the wall 700x23-30c or the likes.

But even if they don't, unless you are using super lite weight pro laytex skin walled inners most standard 23c inners will happily give you many km of riding pleasure.

mob said...

Thanks for all the good advice. I wa just not prepared to make it that far, otherwise I would have had a better time at Yamakita roads.

I was also lucky that I made it two days before the snow this year.

James, the Continental tubes I am using are only up to 25C acc. to their website. Nevertheless I guess it would have brought me home somewhat.